|Grim picture: Dustin Nguyen in Lua Phat (Once Upon A Time). Although the movie has been hailed by critics, it has struggled to generate sales at the box office. — File Photo
Not all private studios are reaping the gains of making blockbusters
HCM CITY (VNS) — With a desire to make quality films and earn high profits from commercially successful movies, many private studios have produced more feature films for local cinemas.
However, after failing to sell tickets for some of these films, producers are beginning to realise it's a risky business.
Private studios have released many interesting films, most of them entertainment, in recent years.
Their films with innovative themes and content have contributed significantly in drawing back audiences to cinemas.
Studios started making entertainment films after the huge success of director Le Hoang's Gai Nhay (Bar Girls), a controversial film on bars, drugs and HIV, released in 2003.
The film's producer, the HCM City Giai Phong (Liberation) Film Company, earned a record US$700,000 from Bar Girls.
At that time, many filmmakers said they were happy to see that locally-made films finally had a public outlet. Boring state-subsidised films with poor screenplays didn't attract audiences.
Profits made from several films produced by private studios after the release of Bar Girls was a powerful incentive for producers.
Thien Ngan Company earned VND20billion ($1 million) in 2009 from Nu Hon Than Chet (Kiss of the Death).
In the following year, Cong Chua Teen Va Ngu Ho Tuong (Teenage Princess and Five Bodyguards) brought VND25 billion ($1.25 million) to Phuoc Sang Entertainment Company.
Last year, the comedy Nha Co Nam Nang Tien (Five Fairies in the House) has brought more than VND52 billion ($2.4 million) to Song Vang Film Production Company.
This year, the comedy Teo Em (Brother Teo) grossed VND15 billion ($714,285) after only a three-day shows in HCM City. Co Dau Dai Chien 2 (Battle of Brides 2) earned nearly VND40 billion after two weeks of screenings.
Last month, Qua Tim Mau (Vengeful Heart) made by overseas Vietnamese Victor Vu became Viet Nam's highest-grossing film ever. It earned VND55 billion ($2.6 million) after 10 days.
However, profitable films only account for a small number of films produced each year in Viet Nam.
Local studios make from 15 to 20 films a year, according to Lao Dong (Labour) daily.
Many films failed to attract audiences because they were distributed at an inappropriate time or they were uninteresting.
Makers of films Toi Nay 8 Gio (Tonight at 8), Mua He Lanh (Cold Summer) and Va Anh Se Tro Lai (I'll be Back), for example, suffered huge losses. The films did not attract audiences because they were seen as ludicrous and indecent.
However, several films including Duong Dua ( Race), Than Tuong (Idol) and Lua Phat (Once Upon A Time) which received praise from the media and cinematographers did not attract an audience.
"Makers of Idol were too confident in the quality of their production. They distributed the sentimental film at the same time as Teo Em," the The Thao&Van Hoa (Sports & Culture) daily wrote.
Vietnamese audiences prefer comedies and chose to see Teo Em.
Though Idol did not top the box office, it won the prestigious Golden Kite Award last week, and Teo Em won the Silver Kite from the Viet Nam Cinema Association.
Meanwhile, the Chanh Phuong Film Company suffered huge losses when its gangster film Bui Doi Cho Lon (Chinatown) was banned from screening by State censors last year.
According to many studios, making a profit from filmmaking was difficult.
"Expenditures often rise beyond expectations during the process of film shooting," said a filmmaker.
Film director Do Quang Minh worked with Galaxy and BHD, two companies with potential as film production manager for two costly films, Lua Phat and My Nhan Ke (Beauty Trap).
"My Nhan Ke featuring many well-known and beautiful movie stars grossed a very high turnover while Lua Phat, a historical and fantasy film, lost scores of billions of dong," Minh said.
"Making a film is a big project. Filmmakers must clearly understand audience demands," Minh said.
"Film producers also have to pay between 40-50 per cent of ticket sales to cinema owners," said Nguyen Chanh Tin, director of Chanh Phuong Film Studio.
"Investing a big sum of money to make a film in Viet Nam is a risky business," Tin said. "We make expensive films because we love this job."
The acclaimed film Dong Mau Anh Hung (The Rebel) is one of several films made by Chanh Phuong Film Studio.
Tin said he was now in debt after several years of investing in films. — VNS